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Personal Representatives must wrap up the estate matters in one year (the “executor’s year”).

False.

The concept of the “executor’s year” is not law. It is only a commonly used “rule of thumb.” It is meant as an indication that a Personal Representative must act efficiently, and should not delay. For very simple estates, it may be possible to wrap up all issues in one year. Many estates take 1-2 years. More complicated estates can take many years to complete.

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Last Reviewed: May 2016
If I don’t qualify for legal aid, I have no other options for finding legal help.

False.

Many communities across Alberta have options for providing legal information and legal help. Some organizations serve the immigrant community, some offer support for people in situations of domestic violence, some give free legal advice, if you meet the qualifications.

If you are 19 years old or younger, you can get legal information and possibly free legal advice and representation from the Children’s Legal and Educational Resource Centre.

Last Reviewed: June 2016
I can’t get a protective order without letting the abuser know that I want one.

False.

Some protective orders allow victims to make the application “ex parte”—this means without notice to the abuser. For example, Emergency Protection Orders can be applied for ex parte. Under certain circumstances, so can restraining orders. These are usually ordered on the same day, and someone else (such as the police) will tell the respondent about the Order.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My lawyer will fight for me and do whatever I tell him or her to do.

False.

Your lawyer should represent your interests competently and advocate on your behalf. However, this does not mean he or she will do everything you tell him or her to do. Lawyers will usually not take extremely unreasonable positions or be rude to the other party. Lawyers are bound by strict ethical codes, so they will not do anything against the law, such as hiding evidence. You can expect your lawyer to act in your best interest, but it will be done within reason and ethical boundaries. 

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
Lawyers will charge whatever they want and I won’t be able to do anything about it.

False.

Although a lawyer can never tell you exactly how much your case will cost at the beginning, he or she should at least tell you what his or her hourly rate is. Typically, this is written into your retainer agreement. Your lawyer may also tell you how many hours he or she thinks your case may require, but this estimate could change depending on the progress of your case.

However, if you feel like your legal bill is too high, you can contact the Review/Assessment Office at the Court. A review officer will look into your legal bill to see whether it should be lowered.

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Last Reviewed: October 2015
I have to leave my belongings to my family in my Will.

Not necessarily.

You only need to provide for family members if those family members meet the legal definition of being “dependent” on you. If you do not provide for your dependent family members, they can apply to court to get financial support from your estate. Other than that, you can leave your belongings to whomever you want.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
If I am granted exclusive possession of the family home, then I alone will own the home.

False. 

An order for exclusive possession does not mean that you keep the home or the assets in the house forever. You are also not permitted to sell, give way, or otherwise dispose of the house and its contents. An order for exclusive possession is a temporary order that gives you the use of the house (and likely its contents) for a specified period of time only.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My rental agreement doesn’t mention anything about pets, so my landlord cannot object if I get a cat.

Not necessarily.

If there are no terms about pets in your rental agreement, then you will need to ask your landlord about having a pet. A landlord is allowed to set rules about specific situations outside of the rental agreement. Usually, the agreement will say that you must obey these rules. In any case, making an arrangement about pets with your landlord ahead of time can prevent getting evicted or having to get rid of your pet.

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Last Reviewed: September 2016
We don’t need any legal help to divide our matrimonial property out of court.

False. Although it is possible to agree on how your matrimonial property will be divided, in order for any agreement to be valid, you must involve a lawyer. Specifically, in order for your agreement to be valid:
- the agreement must be in writing;
- the agreement must have been entered into freely (in order words, you cannot have been forced by your spouse or some other person);
- before signing the agreement, each spouse must have received independent legal advice about the effects of signing the agreement (this ensures that you understand your Matrimonial Property Act rights before signing the agreement); and
- properly signed Certificates of Independent Legal Advice must be attached to the agreement (each of your lawyers will provide you with these).
 

Last Reviewed: October 2015
What happens in someone’s home is their business, even if I think that it’s wrong.

Some people think that abuse that takes place in someone’s home is their own private matter. However, in Canada, there are criminal laws against abuse. For example, the Criminal Code of Canada protects against certain types of abuse such as assault, sexual assault, criminal harassment (stalking), and uttering threats.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
My partner and I separated because of family violence: the court will not give custody (also called "guardianship") or much access (also called "parenting time") to a violent person.

False. Under the Divorce Act, the law assumes at first that both parents have an equal right to custody of their children and that both parents have rights to see those children. Similarly, under the Family Law Act, the law assumes at first that both parents have guardianship of their children and that both parents have rights to see those children. Also, the Alberta court system places a high value on contact with both parents. 

As a result, it is actually quite rare for a parent not to have contact with the children (even if the parent is in jail). Judges will only make "no contact" orders in extreme cases. These are generally cases where the judge believes that a child or parent is in danger, or that a parent may try to abduct a child. In most cases, if a judge is worried about potential harm to a child, he or she will order supervised parenting time rather than no parenting time at all. 

The behaviour of your former partner will not be considered by the judge unless the behaviour relates to his or her ability to parent.

Last Reviewed: October 2015
I don’t need my partner to give their consent before I can use their sperm or eggs to make a baby.

False.

The person providing sperm or eggs must always give their consent before the reproductive materials can be used. However, even if your spouse or common-law partner gives you their consent, they can later take back (withdraw) that consent. Then you could no longer use the sperm or eggs to make a baby.

Last Reviewed: March 2017
In my Power of Attorney, I must name a family member as my Attorney.

False. You can choose anyone who meets the legal requirements—it does not have to be a family member.

Powers of Attorney are not about love or family obligations. They are about practicality and keeping yourself safe and well cared for. Your Attorney will have access to all of your financial information and will be making all of your financial decisions for you. He or she can use the position to control you, to treat you poorly, to steal your money, and to shut out other people that you might have wanted included. In general, it is best to choose someone you trust and someone that you know will have your best interests at heart.

Last Reviewed: April 2016
Once I’m 16, I can be “emancipated” from my parents.

In some places, minors can apply to be “emancipated” from their parents or guardians. This means that they are no longer under their parents’ care and control, and are legally responsible for themselves.

There is no such thing as “emancipation” in most of Canada, including Alberta.

In Alberta, if you are under 18, you must have a legal guardian. The only exceptions to this are if:

  • you are married; or
  • you are in an Adult Interdependent Relationship.

This is a serious legal step with major consequences for minors.

Be Aware

If you are under 18 years old, once you get married or become someone’s Adult Interdependent Partner, you become your own guardian. Your parents or previous guardians will no longer have the power to make decisions for you. They also will no longer be legally required to provide you with the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. In other words, you will now have to make your own decisions and look after yourself.

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Last Reviewed: December 2016
If I don’t speak English, then no one can help me with my legal problems.

False.

Many communities across Alberta have options for providing legal information and legal help. Some organizations specifically serve the immigrant community, and can offer information and help in many different languages. For more information, see the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies website.

Last Reviewed: November 2016

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